All entries for November 2005

November 23, 2005


5 out of 5 stars

After Jon Romero’s enormously embarrassing Daikatana debacle that terminated his career as a videogaming rockstar, as well as the hundreds of ‘Quake Killers’ that were appearing out of the woodwork like crazy, it is hard to underline just how powerful and important Doom was. To some, it is difficult to remember the PC having any decent games before Doom. Doom was the videogame equivalent of Star Wars; an event that changed history for all involved, and not only changed the way games were made, but also how they were packaged, rated and how they infiltrated popular culture. It should never have worked. In 1992, Id software released prototype Wolfenstein 3D through a highly clever method of distribution called Shareware, whereby you played the first seven or so levels for free, and then purchased the rest via other ‘episodes’. It was successful, and despite a lacklustre retail performance for its sequel Spear of Destiny, Id software was tapping the bucks. Yet they were not regarded well in the industry; publishers and established games companies looked down on Id; Sierra tried to broker a deal with Id Software, but Id demanded $2 million up front as part of the deal. Sierra was appalled at the arrogance of the demand, and closed the deal. After Doom, nobody would ever say no to them again.

A revolutionary graphics engine designed by technical wunderkind John Carmack laid the track, and Id’s smart team of designers worked night and day on their masterpiece; it was going to be gory, it was going to be violent, and it was going to take in some taboo themes. Doom was unleashed in December 1993, and the world never saw anything like it. A thunderingly violent game that recalled the 1986 film Aliens, the story of Doom was simply a marine who ends up on a Mars base where everything has fallen strangely silent and finds that hell has been unleashed. Level after level of blood-splashed mayhem ensued, climaxing with the destruction of the Spider Mastermind in hell itself. With seven weapons to choose from in its hellish gothic design, the wondrous shooting maze that was Doom captured the minds of a whole generation. History had changed. Other companies desperately tried to copy, with more violent and destructive weapons and more evil looking bad guys, but to absolutely no avail. The menagerie of Doom was impossible to emulate; floating demons (Cacodemons) zombies (Former Humans) cybernetic hell beasts (the enormous Cyberdemon) and sometimes just the plain gross (Mancubus).

What set Doom apart from any of its inferior imitators however, was not the violence or enemies- although help the enemy design did, with the Cyberdemon probably being the finest boss ever created in any game, ever. What set Doom apart was its fiendish and clever-as-hell design. Id were precociously good at creating enormous booby trapped levels, such as ‘Tricks and Traps’ in Doom II where you open the door as soon as you start, to find some invincibility power ups, eighteen barons of hell (horned demon things, very tough) and one cyber demon (eighteen times tougher than the barons) waiting for you. Time to get powered up. Or Barrels Of Fun, where you have to sprint away from were you’re starting thanks to some zombie igniting one of the many exploding barrels exploding in a massive chain straight towards you. All of it classic, all of it clever, all of it brilliant. Doom II was the retailed one, and was cynically regarded by some as a cash-in add on; the first had the more compelling story and setting, it was argued. No changes, bar a new weapon and a few new enemies were added. Yet Doom II was where Id really let their imaginations run riot, creating a truly enormous game with some brilliantly fiendish levels – each level perhaps four times larger than any of the maps in Doom I. Admittedly, in today’s Half Life’s and Unreal’s, Doom is less highly regarded, despite an entertaining third instalment but it still stands up today as a bloody good fun game despite its age. You just have to remember; no Doom? No Quake, No Unreal, No Half Life, no Unreal Tournament, no Quake III Arena, No Return to Castle Wolfenstein, no Medal of Honor, no Aliens Vs Predator…its as simple as that really.

Oh yeah, and its out in a highly competitive box set; £10 for Doom I, Doom II and Final Doom – that's 120 levels of hell blasting action. FOR. A. TENNER. You'd be bloody mad not to buy it, frankly.

The Brittas Empire (PG)

2 out of 5 stars

Oh dear.

Oh deary me.

It always breaks my heart when I find sitcoms not as funny as I once found them; I remember loving it because of my beloved Chris Barrie, who does such an excellent job in Red Dwarf. It is considered something of a classic mid 90s series; the premise is summed up best by the Amazon review:

_In this classic TV sitcom, Gordon Brittas (Chris Barrie) is the manager of Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre. He means well, wants to do well and desperately wants to be a good manager. Unfortunately his best talent is to continually create recipes for total disaster But Deep down Brittas cares for his staff, but all he ever seems to do is to make their lives more difficult. Trying to rise above this, and to keep the Centre running smoothly, are his assistant Laura (Julia St. John) and of course Colin, complete with boil! Behind every good man, so the saying goes, is a good woman, and behind every maniac, is a good woman losing her sanity! Helen Brittas (Pippa Haywood) is no different as she struggles to cope with her husband's misplaced enthusiasm. _

Okay, why, do you ask, have I pasted a review verbatim from Possibly its because I don't honestly feel it necessary to sum up the premise of the Brittas Empire on my own – also to showcase the occasionally very poor grammar of amazons own reviewers.

Mainly I suppose its because I want to get down to brass tacks: the show really is not as funny as I remember it to be. The central problem I realise is that despite Chris Barrie's amusing performance, the writers seem to think that having a pratfalling manager whom the staff bad talk every fifteen seconds or so is genuinely funny – with the exception of the highly overrated The Office, this has not translated well. One thing I find completely preposterous is his wife. Her constant infidelity is supposed to be funny and we are supposed, for god knows what reason, to root for this semi-psychotic, nymphomaniacal egotistical hussy. For some other, even more preposterous reason, the staff seem to assist in her escapades – even looking disappointed and crestfallen when his wife fails to say marry a new man mere hours after the supposed death of her husband.

I know Brittas is supposed to be an idiot, but surely even in comedy he wouldn't inspire such loathing from his staff? Even the sensible ones seem to dislike him, even when he is trying to do a good job. Not to say Brittas is entirely sympathetic – he drives everyone up the wall with his absurd pernicketiness, his absurd ideas and appalling customer service. It doesn't really help that the assisting cast, with the exception of Colin and the receptionist Carol, are just insufferably bland. Sensible characters with no flaws are not funny; they don't have to be caricatures, but making a character with virtually no flaws just does not inspire sympathy. A good example is the annoyingly witty, perky and clever Brittas assistant Laura – she is a very dull actress in a very dull part.

It did get funnier later on I recall, with some rather moving episodes regarding Brittas' death and ascent to heaven before being returned simply because he got in St. Peter's nerves too much. It is held together by the comic presence of Chris Barrie, who while admittedly overdoes the smarm a number of times, is pretty much the finest actor of the whole piece – apart from the repugnant Colin, who is the guy we should really be rooting for.

It has pained me to write this review, since I dislike debunking myths of my childhood – especially as I recall avidly watching it from when I was a boy. Sigh. How times change.


It's been a strange week for me. Can't honestly explain without opening my heart to the world – which for my sake and the sake of other involved parties, I am refusing to do. Even in my blog.

I am still writing reviews however; I would like to do more for the Boar, unfortunately the whole masters thing has left me going 'AAAARGH' in the whole spare time department. Well, I've pretty much blogged all I wanted to blog, so I'll add a review or two, methinks.

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